It's all too easy to get sucked into a relationship or even a marriage with the wrong man. Lots of factors play into making a bad decision about a mate: youth and inexperience, dysfunctional family models, looking to escape a bad situation, hoping for Prince Charming, worry about becoming an old maid"¦
But there comes a time when a woman is done with all that and sets her sights on finding a really good match. That's when she needs these pointers to help her weed through the garden of guys:
1. You share common goals and general compatibility, usually apparent after a few serious dates. Questions to ask: Do you both want children? How many? What about living location, type of house, future plans? If you're on the same page, keep dating — and keep asking, because people's visions change over time.
2. He passes your compassion and politeness tests. "Watch carefully how he treats others because that's a clear sign," says Ashland psychotherapist Dennise Trager, MSW, LCSW. "Note how he treats you: Is he chronically late? Does he apologize? What are his priorities?" If red flags appear, don't be afraid to look elsewhere.
3. He passes your history test: Ask about the number and frequency of his previous relationships, how he deals with anger, if he's ever hit anybody and why. If his answers seem even remotely unacceptable to you, say thanks but no thanks.
4. He passes your money tests — not so much about numbers, but about honesty. "It may seem improper to find out what they have in the bank but if you're serious about this person, you need to know," Trager says. "Otherwise you're deluding yourself and setting yourself up to be betrayed." Talk specifically about your finances and how you both are with money — are you a worrier? Spender? Hoarder? Obsessive accountant? And be willing to share the same information.
5. Being with him gives you a really deep sense of confidence, peace, calm and joy. "Basically this is about him supporting your entire personhood," says Katherine Ingram, MA, owner of Anam Cara Soul-Centered Life Coaching in Jacksonville. "This means he encourages your work, he's positive about your friends and family and he appreciates your self-expression: the way you look, the way you move in the world, what you say."
6. He has friends you like and who like you. "This indicates the quality of his character and whether he's connected in the world," counsels Ingram. "It creates a loving community, an inner circle that brings all kinds of emotional and physical support that you will need as the marriage grows."
7. You can argue constructively. "If you don't have some ability to argue constructively, the basis of trust will start eroding," Trager says. "Develop a jointly agreed upon way of disagreeing and having heated discussions that's respectful and honoring."
You may need to read a book, take a few classes or get a couple of counseling sessions to learn these methods.
8. He is enough just the way he is. "You don't marry someone for his potential," says Ingram. "Ask yourself: If this is it, right here, right now, if this is the best it's going to be, is this enough? Because character doesn't change."
Ultimately, the key to finding Mr. Right is inside yourself — not inside the guys you date.
"It always comes down to knowing who you are, what's precious to you, what matters to you," says Trager. "So don't hold a checklist of good/bad/pass/fail when you're dating — they're usually too long and too much about the man. Throw the list away and instead look for quality, not quantity."
When you're coming from that place of deep self-acceptance and understanding, you're able to tune into the touchstones and signals that come up when you're with potential mates. And if the touchstones keep leading to your heart, you may have found Mr. Right.